Author Spotlight: Wendy McLeod MacKnight Talks About It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

author-spotlight
Today I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Wendy McLeod MacKnight and her debut novel IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE!

Title: It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Age Range: 8-12

Launch Date: February 7th, 2017

 

 

 

9781510706217-frontcover-its-a-mystery-pig-facePlease tell us a little bit about your book?

When anyone in town could be the culprit in a crime, summer will be anything but boring.

Eleven-year-old Tracy Munroe and her family have just gotten back from their family vacation—why did no one realize that her little brother, Lester, a.k.a. Pig Face, was allergic to sand, salt air, and the ocean before they decided to go to the beach? Now she has three big goals to accomplish before she goes back to school:

  • Figure out a fantastic end of summer adventure with her best friend, Ralph, budding Michelin-star chef. (And no, Ralph, perfecting a soufflé does not count.)
  • Make sure Pig Face does not tag along.
  • Get the gorgeous new boy next door, Zach, to know she even exists.

But when Tracy and Ralph discover an envelope stuffed with money in the dugout at baseball field (and Lester forces them to let him help), they have a mystery on their hands. Did someone lose the cash? Or, did someone steal it? St. Stephens has always seemed like a quiet place to live, but soon the town is brimming with suspects.

Now they’re on a hunt to discover the truth, before the trio is accused of the crime themselves.

 

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

I wrote the first draft of this book years ago, when I was living far away from my hometown and feeling homesick. When I was a kid, my friends and are were always trying to solve mysteries, but either we were dismal detectives or our neighborhood lacked the necessary criminal element to achieve our ends! My first draft had WAY more characters; in the end, I pared it down to the essential three. And sadly, I did call my brother Pig Face once or twice when I was a kid because he knew how to push my buttons! And I always got in trouble for it.

 

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

I think I started out as more of a pantser, but as I get better and better I do a lot of pre-work before I start to write. With It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! I didn’t need to do any research (except about old barns!) because it’s set in my hometown and I know it like the back of my hand. Usually, I come up with a VERY bare bones concept, and then mull it over. I bounce ideas off my amazing agent, Lauren Galit of LKG Agency, who has a good nose for what works and what doesn’t, and she always pushes me to go deeper. Then I draft a detailed outline, do back story stuff, and then fast draft a very horrible first draft. I’m not saying that to be humble. It is always horrible. Then I read it over, and figure out what the heck is wrong. Sometimes that takes weeks. And then I start revisions, which for me is really an almost total rewrite. I research as I go, and then fill in the blanks when I’m done.

 

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

I had a teacher in elementary school who changed my life, and lucky me, I’ve gotten to tell her that and use her name in the book! Mrs. Garnett was infinitely patient with me – she read every story and poem I wrote and listened to every story I told her. I don’t know where she got the patience, but she made me feel special and talented, and really, what more could a kid want in life? I wasn’t an athletic kid, but I believed I could topple mountains and do whatever I wanted thanks to her!

 

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?          

I’ve thought about this a lot, actually. I’ve developed a classroom guide for teachers to use and it’s on the It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! Website. I think the book delves into themes that young readers struggle with – trying to impress other people, feelings of jealousy, feeling like they don’t fit in. In Tracy’s case, one good friend – Ralph – makes all the difference. But she makes some poor choices that come back to haunt her and has difficulty juggling old and new friendships, which I think is a really common theme in this age group. On the other hand, Ralph is singular in his pursuit of a goal – to be a chef someday – and is a wonderful example of what can happen when you actually apply yourself!   

          

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about  your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

I have a 16, almost 17-year-old Lhasa Apso named Indy. He is one of the loves of my life, but he is the worst trained dog EVER. On the other hand, he is very stoic, looks a lot like an ewok, and still prances around the house despite his age!

indy - wendy mcleod mackingt and it's a mystery pig face

 

wendy-mcleod-macknight-author-its-a-mystery-pig-faceWendy McLeod MacKnight is the former deputy minister of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Education in New Brunswick. She grew up in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada with her own Ralph and Pig Face. She now lives in Hanwell, New Brunswick. It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! Is her debut novel. Her second, untitled, middle grade novel will be published by Greenwillow Books in winter 2018.

You can find Wendy all over social media and on her websites. Just use the links below:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wendymacknight

Author Website: http://wendymcleodmacknight.com

IT’S A MYSTERY PIG FACE! Website: http://itsamysterypigface.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WendyMcLeodMacKnightAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wendymcleodmacknight/

You can purchase IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE! at bookstores or online at:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Powells

Thanks so much, Wendy!

patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Author Spotlight: Kiersi Burkhart and Amber Keyser Talk About Their Quartz Creek Ranch series

author-spotlight

Today I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Kiersi Burkhart and Amber Keyser – the amazing duo behind the QUARTZ CREEK RANCH series.

Title: The QUARTZ CREEK RANCH Series, containing: Shy Girl & Shy Guy, One Brave Summer, At Top Speed, and The Long Trail Home

Genre: Contemporary

Age Range: Middle-Grade (ages 9-12)

Launch Date: January 1st, 2017!

 

Quartz Creek Ranch Series all-covers

Please tell us a little bit about your book?

Kiersi: Hi! Well, we’ve got a couple books in this series… Four, to be exact. They’re all coming out at the same time, and you can even buy them in a box set if you want!

Amber: Every summer, the gates of Quartz Creek Ranch swing open for kids in trouble. Under the watchful eyes of lifelong ranchers Willard and Etty Bridle, these ten to twelve-year-olds put their hands—and hearts—to good use, herding cattle, tending the garden, harvesting hay, and caring for animals.

Kiersi: And all four of the books take place in the same world, on the same ranch, just during different summers. So same ranch owners, horse trainers, even the veterinarian, but different kids each time.


What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

Amber: I grew up riding horses and have always loved horse books like King of the Wind and Misty of Chincoteague. My agent knew that so when she got a call from a European publisher looking for horse books, she asked me if I had any ideas. I brainstormed a little and sent her list. The one that caught her eye was “therapy horses.” Shortly after that I saw my writer friend, Kiersi, tweeting about a horse she had rehabilitated when she was a kid. It struck me how much fun it would be to work together on my two-word idea for a series.

Kiersi: Oh man, and when Amber brought up the idea, I knew there was no way we wouldn’t do it. We brainstormed it in a day and came up with six or so stories we wanted to tell on the ranch. The two books I was the lead author on (Shy Girl & Shy Guy and At Top Speed) are based on horses I’ve known, or things I’ve been passionate about. Shy Guy is a bit like my old Appaloosa, and a bit like the horse I rehabilitated as a tween. I loved barrel racing as a girl, which inspired me to write At Top Speed. And I struggled with a lot of the same issues Ella struggles with in that novel.

Amber: The horse in One Brave Summer is based on a big red gelding I rode one summer, and The Long Trail Home was inspired by several backcountry pack trips I took as a kid. Rivka’s story in The Long Trail Home is a really personal one for me. I’m Jewish and have been reeling from the rise in anti-semitism in this country. Rivka’s journey from fear to activism in the face of racism is one I’m trying to emulate.


Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

Kiersi: The very first thing I did when we started working on this project was start taking riding lessons again. I hadn’t taken regular lessons since I was seventeen (and I was twenty-five at the time we started on QCR), so it had been a while for me. I also read one of the most lovely books of my life: The Man Who Listens to Horses, by Monty Roberts. There’s some controversy around him now, but his message about “whispering, not shouting” to earn respect from horses really resonated with me. I also loved the documentary “Buck,” and would recommend it to anyone. It’s all about rehabilitating problem horses and starting horses humanely. I would love to see a world where we stop using the phrase “breaking” a horse, and instead use “starting” a horse. Teaching a young horse to go under the saddle shouldn’t be traumatizing or violent.

Amber: Like Kiersi, I started riding again and reading books on natural horsemanship. YouTube is invaluable resource for writing scenes like the foal birth in The Long Trail Home. We also had a horse expert read each book and offer suggestions during the revision process. In general, we brainstormed each book together. The lead writer would produce a detailed outline, which the other would comment on. Once we agreed on that, the lead writer would get to work on the first draft. The other person was always the first reader offering detailed revision notes. All the books were edited by Anna Cavallo at Darby Creek. She helped make sure all four had the same voice.


We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a  librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

Amber: My first grade teacher, Ms. August, knew I could already read. She let me spend all the reading instructional time in the corner with a novel while everyone else worked on sounding things out. FOREVER GRATEFUL! As for writing, my freshman English teacher, Ms. Milani, taught me the mechanics of writing. If I put together a good sentence now and then, it’s because of her!

Kiersi: I had this one teacher in 4th grade who is unparalleled. I’d always been in bilingual classes growing up, but then the one time I wasn’t, I got the worst teacher possible. We were completely incompatible. So Sr. Gonzalez came and rescued me from my awful teacher and moved me into his class.

I was always getting ahead of the group, so he’d send me to the library to write an extra book report or two. (I know. Serious nerd. I loved writing book reports.) And whenever we went to the computer lab to work on our “stories,” he would poke fun at me because while the other kids were tapping out one or two pages, I was writing a “novel.” Sr. Gonzalez always read my work and gave me gushing compliments, which of course encouraged me to keep writing. I stayed in touch with him all the way through high school. I wish I knew where he is now, so I could tell him I’m an author. I don’t think it would surprise him. Maybe somebody already told him.


What makes your book  a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

Kiersi: All four of our books feature protagonists who are struggling with something—whether it’s strict parent expectations, social anxiety, or anger management. Though the horses are incredibly important to the stories we tell in this series, they really function as vessels for these kids to explore themselves in a safe, encouraging environment, and grow beyond what took them to the ranch.

Amber: I love the social dynamics in these books. Each one has an ensemble cast of both girls and boys. They come together in really surprising ways. I think the series is a great way to talk about listening to one another’s truths and learning to respect the place each of us is coming from. The best books are ones that teach empathy and that’s one of the things Kiersi and I have tried to do with Quartz Creek Ranch.


I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about  your favorite dog (real or imaginary)
?

Amber: Gilda! Believe it or not, I got my first dog two years ago from Kiersi’s aunt and uncle. She is a lab-poodle-mystery-mix aka a muppet. My family had been lobbying for a long time for a dog. I didn’t want one. Now Gilda and I are inseparable. We go paddle-boarding, trail-running and cross-country skiing together. I had no idea that I would love her so much!

Kiersi: Two years ago I would have said White Fang, but then last summer, I adopted the most incredible rescue dog. Baby has become my best friend, closest confidant, and life partner. We’ve gone through a lot together this last year and a half and I don’t know if I’d have gotten through it without him. Though he still has some quirks from his former life being homeless, I wouldn’t have him any other way. I’m never alone with Baby in my life. As I always say… Adopt, don’t shop!

Kiersi and Amber - gals-with-dogs

 

smiling-headshot_medKiersi Burkhart lives and works as a freelance writer and author in Wyoming. While not writing or running her own business, she finds time to advocate for social justice and play Dungeons & Dragons. Kiersi has a deep and abiding love of Pokemon, her partner, and her dog Baby. QUARTZ CREEK RANCH is her debut series. Her first YA novel, HONOR CODE, comes out in Spring 2018. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website.

 

amber-keyserAmber J. Keyser writes both fiction and non-fiction for tweens and teens. QUARTZ CREEK RANCH is her middle-grade debut. Her young adult novels include POINTE, CLAW and THE WAY BACK FROM BROKEN. Her nonfiction titles include THE V-WORD (a New York Public Library Best Book for Teens and Chicago Public Library Best Nonfiction for Teens) and SNEAKER CENTURY: A HISTORY OF ATHLETIC SHOES, among numerous other titles. Find Amber on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website.

You can buy their books anywhere good books are sold, or online at:

Powells

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

Thanks so much, ladies!
patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

2017 Debut Book Love: Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes

Book Review | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comI love it when I find a book that makes me want to write.

Mary Lambert’s middle grade debut FAMILY GAME NIGHT AND OTHER CATASTROPHES did exactly that.

I simply couldn’t put it down. I read it in one sitting – unable to drag myself away.  It’s a book that makes you long for a magical fix – even as you know that such a thing is impossible. And it doesn’t take the easy way out. There are no solid answers – just the sense that this family will continue on – sorting out the beautiful mess of their lives together.

Family Game Night and Other CatastrophesFamily Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is everything I love about middle grade novels. Perfect voice. A cast of well-rounded, interesting characters. True-to-life friendships and family relationships. And, best of all, it doesn’t take the easy way out – but manages to leave you with hope just the same. Mary Lambert’s debut it a triumph – mixing real pain with just the right amount of humor to give the reader a heartfelt look into a family trying desperately to grow and change – while struggling to keep themselves and each other together in the process.

View all my reviews

For readers:

  • A great main character that you can really relate to.
  • A true-to-life sibling relationship.
  • Sad and funny all rolled up together  – just like life.

For teachers

  • Discussion about dealing with crisis behavior – helping others and helping ourselves.
  • Discussion about family – and how we care for those we love.
  • A great example of voice.

patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

Save

Save

2017 Debut Book Love: How to Stage a Catastrophe

Book Review | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comHave I said how much I love my fellow middle grade debut authors? If not, I mean to. Everyday.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten an ARC (advanced reader copy) of one of my fellow middle grade debut friends in the mail, but then, on a cold, dark Halloween day, Rebecca Donnelly’s super fun HOW TO STAGE A CATASTROPHE showed up in my mail box and saved my life.

Part play – part novel – and all funny, I read this book in short bursts – not letting myself gobble it up in one sitting. And I totally fell for the characters. Sid and Folly are smart and funny and full of good (and not-so-good) ideas, and just the kind of kids you want to hang out with. Even the adults in this book are great. And despite the spot-on descriptions of Florida heat, I kind of wanted to move to Hatahatchee and spend some time backstage at the Juicebox Theater.

How to Stage a CatastropheHow to Stage a Catastrophe by Rebecca Donnelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a fun read! Hilarious and heart-warming, Sidney and company’s quest to save the Juicebox Theater is a joy to read. The characters are fantastic – smart and funny and kind – but full of wild ideas just the same. Great for theater lovers, theater wanna-be’s, and anyone who loves a good play (and a few chase scenes!), Donnelly’s story will keep you reading and laughing and longing for the next performance. The creative design and chapter structure is just an added treat.

View all my reviews

For readers:

  • A great set of fun and smart characters who are getting things done.
  • Theater stuff – behind the scenes and on the stage.
  • Friendship, fun, and a really awesome dog.

For teachers

  • Great structure – and a fun way to introduce kids to play structure and the ins and out of stage work.
  • Discussion about community – and how to work together to save something you care about.
  • Discussion about passion – and how to work hard on something that matters – without hurting others in the process.

patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

2017 Debut Book Love: Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire

Book Review | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comI love books for middle-graders. I love reading them, talking about them, and sharing them with kids, teachers, and parents. The best part about reading books for middle-graders is remembering what it was like to be a kid – to be  nine-years-old and just figuring out school and friends and family – at the same time you’re beginning to examine exactly where you belong in the great big world.

Some books just remind you of that time, while others transport you back there and make you relive all of it: the laughter, the pain, the excitement, and the confusion. Fellow 2017 debut author Susan Tan’s debut MG novel CILLA LEE-JENKINS:  FUTURE AUTHOR EXTRAORDINAIRE does all of this and more.

I read this book in one sitting and loved it so much, I shared my love for it all over social media – that is after I managed to wipe away the tears.

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author ExtraordinaireCilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cilla Lee-Jenkins is the best friend you wish you had. Her struggles are real. Her triumphs are joyous. And her big heart and rich imagination will captivate even the most jaded reader. Susan Tan’s debut will have you laughing out loud one minute and choking back tears the next. This book is a must read for anyone who is or once was a child. Be warned: Cilla and her family will steal your heart.

View all my reviews

CILLA LEE-JENKINS:  FUTURE AUTHOR EXTRAODINAIRE is a must for every classroom and library – public and personal. And, lucky for us, we can pre-order it now and have it in our mailboxes by the end of March.

For readers:

  • The funny and big-hearted Cilla.
  • A great voice kids will totally relate to.
  • Real life worries and triumphs – new baby, fights with friends, big dreams.

For teachers

  • A great example of expressing yourself through writing /memoir.
  • Discussion about family – and the joys and challenges of growing up in two cultures.
  • Discussion about friendship – and what you do when you make a mistake.
  • Discussion about change  – and how to find your place when everything seems to be falling apart.

patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save